Some students, workers and businesses in Merced took the day off Thursday to support the national protest of some of President Donald Trump’s stances and promises on immigration.
“A Day Without Immigrants” protested the president’s plans to build a wall between the United States and Mexico and deport millions of undocumented immigrants.
Signs were posted on the front door of Shop & Save Market on Childs Avenue and a coin-operated laundromat, Launderland. Along with fresh produce, meat and other food items, Shop & Save Market has a taqueria inside.
The signs stated they were closed in support of “innocent” working men and women who strive for better lives for their families.
Adam Ahmed, manager of Shop & Save, told the Merced Sun-Star about 80 percent of the stores’ customers are undocumented. The stores closed to support not only their customers but “every undocumented immigrant who is here to better their lives in this great country.”
Although Ahmed said they haven’t seen any backlash from customers, he had hoped more businesses would close in support of undocumented immigrants.
“When I was driving around more, I noticed a lot of liquor stores that are supported by undocumented immigrants still open,” Ahmed said in a message to the Sun-Star. “I find that absurd for the store owners not showing some kind of support for the undocumented immigrants.”
Merced resident Monica K. Villa said for the last six months she has been coming into Shop & Save Market for lunch on a weekly basis and frequents the laundromat as well. Many people in the area come in for lunch and they’re “always very busy.”
Villa said she doesn’t think people in the community will be upset with their decision to close Thursday because of the many immigrants in the surrounding community.
“It’s a good thing because we have a lot of immigrants in the area,” Villa said. “I’m hoping with the community they will come together.”
The Merced City School District saw a drop in attendance Thursday, according to Sara Sandrik, the district’s public information officer.
“We won’t know for sure which absences are related to today’s protest unless the student’s parents tell us that is the reason they are absent,” Sandrik said.
The protest didn’t appear to have a major impact on area high schools in terms of staffing or attendance.
“There seems to be a bit of a change in attendance, but nothing overly dramatic,” said Ralph Calderon, assistant superintendent for human resources for Merced Union High School District.
Whether the slight attendance drop was due to the “Day Without Immigrants” protest, “there’s no way to know that,” Calderon said.
Gustine Unified School District Superintendent Bill Morones said the district saw a “substantial” number of absences Thursday and believes it was partly because of the nationwide boycotts.
“As a school district we cherish our diverse school district, and our No. 1 concern is always the safety of our children and families,” Morones said.
Farmers also opted out of work for the day. J Marchini Farms, based in Le Grand, had about 40 percent of its workforce out Thursday, according to Marc Marchini, chief operations officer. He said it was a large number of people sick for one day, so he suspected most didn’t show up in light of the protest.
“We’re definitely going to feel it,” Marchini said. “We had orders and work to do today, so we have to pick it up – hopefully within the next couple days – in whatever they lost in production today.”
Seeing that the Marchini family immigrated to the United States from Italy three generations ago, Marchini said he’s “definitely on the immigrant side” but has seen the protest turn into disagreements that aren’t “bringing people together.”
Marchini said he’s unsure what portion of their workers were born in the United States but that there are “definitely families that speak other languages and come together to start a new life because wherever they came from, there’s obviously not big opportunities.”
“Everyone should be open to that,” Marchini said. “They came here because they can’t do what they were doing now wherever they came from. They have an opportunity to do it now.”
Marchini added, “I know there’s need for branch-level positions and they’re the only ones who have proven to do those jobs. There needs to be a solution.”
Merced Sun-Star reporter Brianna Calix contributed to this report.
Monica Velez: 209-385-2486